Saturday, November 26, 2005

You'll find it, you can't miss it.

There are people in this city who carry compasses, another verification of my theory that living here is one long hike in the woods. Like hikers, we have to carry much of what we will need for the day. Carrying maps, water and extra clothing as well as several forms of money, transfer cards and other essential documents, the New Yorker on the street is not so different from the traveler who is between hostels in some Irish outer county. He must have some kind of self-containment or perhaps fall victim to those providers of what he lacks. The compass carriers are doing two things, they are hauling something which can provide accurate information. (Okay, so that way must be East.) And they avoiding the dreaded 'need to ask directions' dilemma.

A New Yorker knows that other New Yorkers love to give directions. It's been said, once they know you are no threat or some kind of stalker freak, New Yorkers are the most helpful people on the planet. Perhaps too helpful, because they will help you find your way even if they haven't got a clue where you are going. Hence the dilemma, for a New Yorker knows that other New Yorkers will give directions even if they don't know what they hell they are talking about. You will never hear a New Yorker say "I don't know how to get there." They will ponder, they will think it out, they will remember that their uncle Marty used to hang out near the neighborhood the questioner is seeking, they will come up with an answer.

How do I get to Greenpoint?
"You take the N or the R to Union Square and then change, ask at the booth, maybe it's different now."
Where is John Street?
"It's way downtown, near Vesey, I think, it crosses Broadway, but down there everything crosses Broadway so you will have to look. Take the number one train down to like Prince and you'll find it."

I'm trying to find Madison Square Park, not Madison Square Garden, Park.
"Go down Fifth or Broadway until you see the Flatiron Building. It's across the street. Oh, and the New York Life Tower is down there all lit up too. You can't miss it."

The intrepid New Yorker glances at the subway maps near the booth and checks his compass at the top of the stairs. He strides off towards the lighthouse beacon shining in the night.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Cold Sunlight Makes Even Stones Shine

Friday, 10:30AM 27F
Just as I got to the bottom of the first real hill of the day, as opposed to the two or three little humpy things already left behind, the music on my Muvo jumped to the upbeat section of "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes". I about killed myself trying to stay with the reagae beat and thinking about how 'they ended up asleeping in a doorway... diamonds on the soles of their shoes." Someone, thank you New York City Parks Department, had kindly removed most of the sticks and leaves from the pathway and I huffed/puffed/shuffled in the freezing air to the top. Or almost to the top.

There was no one else on the path. Not a soul. I hadn't seen a dogwalker or any of the usual wandering couples in love. Frigid temperatures will do that. Luckily, there was very little wind. The river was as smooth and shiny as a sheet metal counter top. I started running again with the Gypsy Kings and some song I'd forgotten was even on the thing. Still no one about. One thing living in the city does for you, or to you, is to make you expect to be around people no matter where you are, so the empty paths and stairways began to bring on a little anxiousness. When you are completely alone then you are more vunerable once someone does appear.

I made my way down past the Cloisters, (ah, a passing car, some other human, ah) and hurried toward the drinking fountain at the bend, but it was shut off. Of course, it's shut off with it getting this cold, I reminded myself. From now on until Spring I'll have to bring my own. (There is a water fountain inside the museum, but it's up two flights of stairs.) I started running faster, wanting now just to get home and out of the cold. Way up, yes-almost every path on my run is uphill, I saw the little group. Two people standing to one side watching a woman playing with her toddler. There was much merriment. The mom was showering the baby with leaves and he was having the time of his life, literally dancing for joy as he waited for his mother to pick up another handful. The two other people, grandparents I'm guessing, were doing the appropriate oohing and ha-hah-ing. The sunlight was pouring down over them and me and all creation. Everything was glowing in the cold, even the stone walls shone like the sheet metal river.

Monday, November 21, 2005

There must be some mistake.

I read through the report about the purported World Scrabble Championships in London, of all places, and there was not a single mention of the actual Championship site, Anna Maria Island, Florida. For the past ten years the top contenders for the Scrabble crown have gathered not for the measly twenty four games in the three days reported happening in London, but for a true marathon ten days of game after game after game. Some limits are offered ("Okay, we'll play best of seven.") but these are hardly ever adhered to with the opponents battling deep into the the recesses of the night. Breakfast conversation is a combination of the latest news headlines and a replays of the great plays of the previous night.
"I got qanat on a triple and she challenged it."
"Wow, Bush's plane crashed in Maryland."
"I still say it looks like you mis-spelled gnat. Pass the milk, please."
"Huge rocks are expected to crash into the earth today."
"So, you played 'zygotes' and then you made 'athletics' out of 'tics' and got fifty points. Is there any cinnamon bread left?"
"You ended up winning anyway."
"Well, of course."
"It says here that New York City got two feet of snow last night."
"That's because I tried to play 'aloe vera' as one word."
"It's not one word."
"I know that now. More coffee?"
"The Chinese Army invaded the US via the Canadian border with Washington last Tuesday. They now occupy all of the Mid-West and are holding Chicago under siege."
"I have to go to the carpet store this morning but we'll play this afternoon, right?"
"If it's not windy, we can play outside."

The pretenders in London seem serious enough. They obviously have some enthusiasm for the game, but pale in comparison to the true champions hunkered down on the Island. AND there are the sunsets.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

This is more like it.

November arrived about fifteen days late. Huffing and puffing around Central Park on Friday with a scattering of runners and fewer cyclists, I thought about the unusually warm weather of the past two weeks and pulled my hands up into my sleeves. The baseball hat I had on seemed suddenly to be a really bad idea. The idea of the day was to make one entire circuit of the park which is about six miles. There is a 10K on December 11 and I want to cruise through it. It was cold starting out but luckily not a lot of wind, that would have done it. There was a guy on inline skates who seemed very out of place on those inline skates. His feet were either caved in or splayed out and, even on the flats, movement forward was an effort. He was going so slow that I passed him. I don't pass many people and I've never passed a rollerblader. It was inspiring in an odd sort of way.

Bikers, wrapped up much more than I was, zoomed by in their balaclavas and puffy fleece jackets. One runner dressed in a sleek outfit padded past me about E 79th Street and disappeared up the road. Before I got to the water at 91st, he was headed back to the house. I am a little jealous of good looking roadwear. I wear sweatpants and a sweatshirt and I roll my jacket up tightly and put it in my fannypack. I am sure I look ridiculous but I don't want to freeze in my sweat while waiting for the train to go home.

Right at the Tavern on the Green, there was a mom pushing a baby carriage on the running lane. As I approached within ten yards of her she began to run. Run fast. So, with only about 3/4 of a mile to go, I decided to pass her. Or at least catch up to her. And the race was on. I don't know if she saw me out of the corner of her eye and didn't want to be passed by such an inelegant creature but off she went. Did I mention that this section is downhill slightly? I let out all the stops. and slowly gained a little then I saw her falter, just a step or two and knew she couldn't keep up her furious pace. I plowed on and making the sound of a sheep being strangled in a wire fence, I roared passed her and was at the same time passed by the odd guy on the roller blades. What? He's made it all the way around the park? Nothing could stop me now, I had to catch him too.

The path to the train (the finish line) was coming up soon. My only advantage was knowing that neither the baby pusher nor the staggering man on rollerblades knew that the finish was so close. As the baby carriage came even with me on my left, the rollerblader seemed to be distracted by a squirrel or something in the trees. I swept around him and dashed down the final fifty yards, crossing over the roadway and exiting on the path well before either of my competitors.

I trotted through the little lunch kiosk seating area and went down the subway stairs to get my time from the ticket booth clock. 71 minutes.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Run diary

Date Mode SP time distance

11/13 R/TrP 60:00 4.0

11/14 T/FB 3.5 12:30 1.0

11/14 R/St 18:00 1.1

11/14 W/St 15:00 1.1

11/15 W/st 13:00 1.1

11/15 T/R 5.0 16.00 1.3

11/15 T/FB 3.3 15:00 1.0

11/16 R/St .12:00 1.1

11/16 T/M 4.5 24:02 2.0

11/18 R/CP 71:00 5.2

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Child's Italian Lesson, The Man with a Musket

Just when you think you have seen the lengths and depths of diversity, New York fills you in with some more. The park was crowded today. A perfect autumn day, the trees shimmering yellow red gold and a gentle breeze launching a leaf or two skyward brought out the couples and the parents and the ancients. Book readers down on the Heather Garden sub-level were wrapped up a little, you couldn't just sit for long without getting a chill. Lovers sprawled on the benches, here, she has her head on his lap, over there the pair is in some kind of Tantric twist with her inside leg up over his and his arms wrapped over and around her shoulders while trying to stretch his face down to reach her upturned mouth. No one else bothered to look.

Just then a man with a musket walked by. No one gave him a second glance either. "No, honey, dos is Spanish. In Italian, it's due. Try it." the mother is pushing a carriage with a four year old in it. A four year old who apparently is familiar with Spanish but now is learning Italian. The man with the musket stops at a place where five paths come together. He is wearing the uniform of a Continental Soldier, blue tri-cornered hat, darker blue vest, pale legging and deerskin boots. Who has the time for such hobbies? My question was answered immediately by the sound of gunfire.

We, the mother, child-student and the man with the musket, all made the corner into the open green area beyond the Heather Garden just in time to see the smoke from the muskets fade into the wind. Thirty other men, all with muskets and some with swords and sidearms, were lined up in formation. All had uniforms of some sort, which was in keeping with the American Revolutionary Forces, which fought the entire four year campaign against the British dressed in a hodge-podge of uniforms. There was a smattering of applause for the gunfire.
Today, I learn from the little poster at the front entrance to the park, (I always enter from down on Broadway and then run up the long hill.) is the 229th Anniversary of the Battle of Fort Washington. I think it is nice of New Yorkers to commemorate the solid whipping that they received that day. And it was the fourth good solid whipping the Continental Army had received in recent days, out flanked in Brooklyn, out gunned at Kip's Bay and chased up and down the hills of Harlem, the patriots were on the run. Washington had barely escaped the fort named in his honor before the Hessian troops crossed over from the Bronx, climbed the same hills that I run up on the North Side of Ft. Tryon and descended in a fury onto the ill-prepared defenders.
Washington and his men had been driven out of New York.

As I leave the front gate a man is translating the little sign about the Battle into Russian for a very old woman. "Here?" she asks in Russian, "When?" He reads the sign again. Oh, she is relieved, she thought it might be today.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Things are not what they appear to be.

Nothing new in that, but do you see this nice oil painting of the two pigeons? Well, it's not a painting, it's a software generated oil of a picture I took last Spring.

There is nothing that can't be fudged or faked.

Monday, November 07, 2005

"if wishes were horses, all rides would be free"

"if wishes were horses, all rides would be free" so writes a friend..

I thought I remembered my Nana J saying it differently, "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride." It was a way of saying, "Wish all you want, but there's very little hope of any of it coming true."
Still we did wish.
We wished for snow on days that school reports were due.
We wished the rain to stop falling on our little beach at the lake.
Oh, and we wished that Janice Ford's father would smile more when he saw us together on his front porch swing.
We wished that songbird would repeat his tune till we could learn to whistle it.
We wished for an easy pitch when we were at bat and a pop fly when we were standing in left field.
We wished for a cloud to pass over the sun for a minute or two when we were baking ourselves red on the shores of Rocky Neck.
We wished we could remember the names of the two blond girls who laughed so brightly at the Rec dances that summer of '64.
We wished for cars to stop when we were hitchhiking through Vermont's mountains.
We wished we hadn't decided to carry our typewriter with us on the road.

We wished that Jackie Curtain hadn't been shot through in a little green place on the map far away. And we wished it had been us until we told our mother that and then we wished we hadn't said anything at all.

We wished we had stayed that night. We wished we hadn't stayed so long at Howard Johnson's or had that second Black Cow. We wished we'd let BettyAnn talk us out of leaving.

and oh we wished for love.
and oh we wished for peace.

and oh sometimes all we wished for was a little, just a moment, of sleep.

We wished,
and every single wish we wished
spun through the air,
a horsehair on the wind.
Sometimes it would tie a knot to truth,
but more often
it would fly up out there
to be sewn into the mattress of the songbird's nest.

Joe(Tie a wishknot on your finger with a horsehair)Nation

No one, not even November, believes it's November.

Yes, there are leaves on the path, but look at that sunshine and feel the warm breeze flowing through the trees. Runners are wearing shorts and tee-shirts just like in August and the walkers aren't bundled up, they are strolling with their jackets unzipped. The nights have brought only mid-fifties, so who really believes it's November? The squirrels, that's who. Those grey fluffy tailed tree rats are everywhere in the park, working, digging and making big thick nests.

Over there, across the river, the trees seem to have caught on to autumn even if the wind hasn't. A great banner of yellow and red has unfurled over the Palisades announcing it's arrival.
Still I haven't seen a flight of geese yet. Most Sunday mornings at this time of year one can see several at a time. They cruise down the open air over the river and disappear in the mists beyond the George Washington Bridge. No ducks yet either. Well, that's not entirely true. I saw a large flock of them at the reservoir last Thursday night , but then there are always some ducks there so it is impossible to tell if they are residents or tourists.

The photo on the top was taken in late May in early morning, the other on a recent Friday about noon. The trees may be changing but I regretted wearing a long sleeved shirt and a sweatshirt on the run. At least I regretted it while I was running. In the short time it took to take a few shots, my body had chilled through and it took until I was almost at the top of Bennett's Hill before I was warm again. It makes it very hard to know what to take for the Central Park runs.

This past Sunday, Marathon Day, I wore a short sleeved shirt and had a sweatshirt tied around my waist. That was fine as long as I could keep running but once I got slowed by all of the people in the Park and then out on Central Park West, the cold sweat began to wear on me. I stopped at 47th and Fifth to put on the sweatshirt only to discover that I had lost my keys. What a disaster!! I had to make a few phone calls and get the gym to first let me in and second, to re-issue a new barcode tag. I am calm about this now but when I first discovered the unzipped pocket I about had a heart attack. Thank God for understanding bosses.

My brain has no idea what is going on in my mouth.

My brain has no idea what is going on in my mouth. I say that because it's just spent the last hour telling me all the wrong things about what my dentist was sticking around with in there. Now I should say first that my brain is very good at guessing sizes, measurements and distances. My eyes can look down a highway or across a room and my brain will correctly report "It's a half a mile to that sharp corner." and "You're going to need twelve feet of rug runner." My brain is good at little stuff too. Hold up a number 8 sheet metal screw and nine times out of time, my brain will tell you whether it's a 2" or 1 3/4". So it came as a surprise to me when I realized that my brain can't tell sizes inside my mouth. It's all guesswork for the cerebellum When the dentist fills a tooth my brain thinks he is larding huge chunks of filling stuff into a gigantic chasm located in the back of my head, well beyond the limits of my mouth area, all while attaching a 3" C clamp to my lip. It reports that my masked friend used a four inch disc grinder on that back molar and is now trying to force a rubber bottle stopper between it and my gums.

Yes. I know none of that could be true. There isn't any way for me to have the reported giant C-Clamp on my lip, yet my brain insists that it is there.

At least the part of my brain that is supposed to report on stuff like this is saying that. The brain is divided up into about a hundred parts, I think, not just the three we learned in school, cerebrum, cerebellum and medulla oblongata. Inside all of those are little sections which help us guess what going on in the world, all observing, analyzing and rationalizing. "Excuse me," pipes up one, "that piece of cheese appears to be moldy." Well, yes, "says a analyst, "yes, it does." "But, I'm really hungry." observes a whiney, still four years old, section. "You'll get sick." says a predicter chunk." "You always say that."glows another, "It never happens. Well, hardly ever."
"Wait, I have it." says the rational part, "We eat half. If we are not sick in a half an hour, we eat the other half." ... "Oh, go ahead and eat" says the still stuck in there teenager. "How about fifteen minutes?" says the compromiser from your second marriage. And so it goes.

"All finished." says the dentist slamming down the chainsaw onto the instrument holder."Try to rinse." This part must really amuse dentists because they know your lips are still drugged out. "Hey," says the brain, "More bad news. You have no lips." It does feel just like that. I remind the brain that we are at the dentist and it has no idea what is going on, but that if it will shut up for a moment I will take it for a nice nap after we get home.

"Aounds moud" says the lip controller.

We get up and go pay our bill.